Attribution: What It Is And Why It’s Important

Forrester Research, Inc. recently released their Interactive Attribution Q4: 2009 report, a 44-criteria evaluation of interactive attribution vendors. The report opens with a statement of why accurate, interactive attribution is so crucial:

“The de facto industry standard of measuring the value of campaigns or media placements by the most recent click or interaction is ripe for change.”

The report continues by defining interactive attribution as “the practice of measuring the correct partial value of each interactive ad that drove a desired outcome.”

Reading the report will give you an understanding of how Forrester sees each vendor in the space and what each vendor’s strengths and weaknesses are. One key point in the analysis is there is not one specific way to do attribution—each vendor approaches attribution in a unique way. For this post, we’re going to focus on the two specific types of attribution: “operational” (or day-to-day) attribution and “project-based” (or strategic, high-level) attribution.

Operational attribution

Operational attribution allows an advertiser to see all of the steps or clicks that lead to conversion in real-time and continuously attributes conversion credit across the team of ads. The benefit of operational attribution is that all of your daily marketing decisions (bid price, CPM, ad text and ad sources) reflect accurate attribution, so each click gets the credit it deserves.

In order to perform operational attribution, you need the ability to track the performance of your advertising in real-time and must be able to track all forms of online advertising, not just one medium, to get an accurate picture of how much credit each type of media deserves.

Another requirement is the ability to track conversions that do not occur online. Many conversions from online advertising may occur via the phone, CRM or ERP, or in a point-of-sales system. The best attribution solutions, according to the Forrester Report, support both online and offline conversions, and also include “out of the box” attribution models that can be used on day one.

Project-based attribution

Project-based attribution focuses on your overall marketing program and produces an optimized marketing spend plan, and its solutions include both technology and service providers. Project-based attribution analyzes historic advertising, as well as factoring in new or changed information, to determine the best advertising mix for the future.

Typically, project based attribution is performed on a time interval that makes the most sense for your business (quarterly, yearly, etc.), where you’re looking at attribution performed over that interval and measuring its impact during that time. Then, based on the previous intervals performance, and predicted outside factors that will occur in the future, you make a decision about the best way to attribute your marketing dollars going forward.

To perform project-based attribution, complete and accurate historic ad performance data is required. This can create a challenge for project-based attribution providers since they must rely on their clients to provide the data. If the clients’ data is flawed or limited in scope, then the models that they build will be flawed as well.

Forrester did a nice job of highlighting the spectrum of the available options to perform attribution today. Given that attribution is a relatively new field, Forrester notes that new methods are continuously evolving.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | Credit Is Due | How To: Analytics | How To: SEM


About The Author: is the Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at ClearSaleing, Inc., a technology provider of advertising analytics. Adam founded ClearSaleing after working at Google for 3 years, where he started their Inside Sales organization.

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